2016/01/30

Hyperloop & Regional Technology Competitions

The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition is a fantastic example of how people from around the world (or around a country or a region, like NE Wisconsin or the greater Traverse City area) can innovate and collaborate to solve problems or develop new solutions to challenging problems.

The main reason this competition and all the other work around the Hyperloop is happening is because one highly influential person wanted to make it happen. One person got thousands of smart people to voluntarily contribute hundreds of thousands or millions of hours of work on a technological challenge. One person’s involvement convinced organizations and investors to sponsor those smart people, mentor their work, and fund their expenses.

A recent article highlights the open innovation value of the collaborative competition Elon Musk has inspired and enabled:
"...The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition is being held at Texas A&M [January 29-30, 2016]...In all, 124 teams from 20 different countries had one common goal: for their hyperloop design to be picked as a finalist in the weekend design competition...One Aggie team, Hullabaloop has been working on the project for nearly 14 weeks. "We've worked very hard on this, you know, completely cut off Christmas vacation and break and all that, and we just stayed here on campus and worked," said Martinez. One thing all teams could agree on is that they're learning from each other. "There's geographic barriers, but also the difference in education and inspirations from other teams," said participant Ian Devlaming. "There's a lot of different designs, things that aren't similar or even work similarly at all, and you can't believe different teams came up with such different ideas." They had the chance to look at and discuss each other's models. "It's really a lot of fun to see what other people are thinking, the ideas that they have and just so many people that are excited about a topic," said Agarwal. "It's just a really good environment to be in while you're studying..."
Check out the website for the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition being held at Texas A&M.

NE Wisconsin
If one highly influential person in NE Wisconsin or in the Grand Traverse region is passionate about creating more interest and participation in technology in their area, they could spark the organization and launch of a region-wide competition modeled after the Hyperloop efforts.

A regional technology competition can be done many ways. It might be done within one region, such as NE Wisconsin or the greater TC area. It can also be done between the two regions, or those two regions could collaborate to develop the competition concept then invite other regions in the Midwest to participate in the competition. The initial and primary focus of the competition is students, but non-students will also be welcome to participate.

Traverse City region
There could be a single technology focus of the competition, several to choose from, or a large range of tech topics involved in the challenge. Whether to have one topic for the competition or multiple topics will require balancing the two goals of (1) engaging the maximum number of participants in the challenge, and (2) having a compelling and focused theme for the challenge that will appeal to a wide spectrum of partners and sponsors. My proposal is to poll a variety of high school and college students, asking which five of the topics below they would want to work on, and what three other technology topics are of extremely high interest to them. Based on feedback from the students, a decision would be made to have a single theme topic for the challenge, or to let participants choose from the most popular three or five topics.

  1. Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality
  2. Robotics
  3. 3D Printing
  4. Wearable Computing
  5. Artificial Intelligence
  6. Cybersecurity
  7. Quadcopters / Drones
  8. Electric Aircraft
  9. Rocketry
  10. Cube Satellites
  11. Asteroid Mining
  12. Smartphone Apps or Uses
  13. Medical Technology
  14. Fitness Devices
  15. Internet of Things

Potential logo for regional technology challenge
Here’s a logo concept which might be used for a NE Wisconsin regional tech challenge. It can be easily modified based on the areas that choose to participate in the competition and the organizations who choose to support the concept. Or someone might develop a completely different and much cooler logo when they get involved with organizing the competition.

If you think a Regional Technology Competition is a worthwhile idea and want to discuss the concept of the tech challenge, contact Bob Waldron, bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

If you want to see a regional competition happen, promote the concept with connected and influential people you know. One of them can be the spark who makes the competition a reality!

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Background PDF about the Hyperloop project
Wall Street Journal article about Hyperloop technology development
TechCrunch post about a startup working on Hyperloop

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